About five years ago, when this old blog was going strong and I was in the middle of my assignment as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart in Yonkers, my Provincial Minister came to me with some pamphlets and asked me if I might think about going to our International College in order to study in Rome.
I was excited by the idea. I tried to make some email contacts with friars in Rome. I thought about what I might study. I had a set of Italian breviaries sent over from Padua. I looked at the website of the International College and when I saw a gallery of party pictures in which friars were grilling whole pineapples on long skewers, I thought that this must be a fun place. I wrote as much in an email to friends, linking the gallery. (the wonders of the gmail archive. 'Pineapples' is a pretty narrow search term in mine.) I have to confess, in those days one of my frequent day-off destinations was an old lunch counter turned taco stand where they would give you a couple pieces of grilled pineapple with their amazing tacos al pastor.
Eventually, of course, it was decided that I should apply and go to Boston College where I then had my false start as a doctoral student. During the same sojourn back in Boston I had my insuccess as guardian of a friary before I was saved from any further calamity by the unexpected call here to Rome and the quiet, hidden life I live now at our International College, the temporary home of our General Curia while our real place is undergoing renovations.
I was recently reminded of some of this trajectory on the occasion of the brethren's celebration of Italian Liberation Day--as one of the Italian friars put it, "the day the Americans came and saved us from the Germans"--when I went outside and saw this:
Five years later, there were the pineapples on the long skewers, grilling away. They got me thinking about all this and reminded me--how time flies!--that I am coming up on two years here in Rome. In some ways it's been a rough landing. But it's been a landing nonetheless, and landings are times when the grace of God comes into focus as I look back and see God guiding me by crooked paths, taking away consolations when it's the best thing to draw me further into his Mystery, giving me his merciful protection in my folly, and granting me glimpses of how it all comes together in him--and always has.